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An editor and avid reader gives her frank thoughts about everything she reads. More reviews and book blather on fefferbooks.com!

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If I Should Die
Amy Plum
Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)
Marissa Meyer

Perfect Ruin (Internment Chronicles, #1)

Perfect Ruin (Internment Chronicles, #1) - Lauren DeStefano Review first appeared on fefferbooks.com.

Perfect Ruin has been on my “to-read” list for months, now, and even after I bought it, it sat on my Kindle, unread, for a long time. I’m not sure why it took me so long to get around to it, but I finally had a break in my schedule long enough to choose my own reading adventure, and Perfect Ruin seemed exactly right.

IT WAS SO AWESOME YOU GUYS.

I don’t really know how, exactly, to describe the mood and tone DeStephano creates in this book. Perfect Ruin is set on a sort of island in the sky–the mythology is that a portion of the earth has been lifted up into the heavens as a punishment, and the people there are interned on the floating space, where their generations of people have lived and died for ages. They have a small city and a train, and some technology, and the ability to see, faintly, the world below, but they can’t get to it–there’s a barrier that keeps them on Internment. Some people have tried to jump, and they are left irreparably damaged in one way or another.

Morgan, our protagonist, lives on Internment with her parents. Her father is a policeman (a fairly quiet job in a quiet city) and her brother, Lex, lives upstairs with his wife. Lex, though, is blind, having tried to jump a while back. We learn more about that as the book progresses. Life is fairly quiet and measured on Internment, until Daphne Leander is found, murdered, on the train tracks. Then all hell basically breaks loose, and Morgan’s life is turned completely upside down.

This book is so unlike anything I’ve read in a long time, and I thoroughly enjoyed both the plot and the deep relationships DeStephano portrays between Morgan and her friends and family members. These characters will stay with me for a long time, which is always a good omen for a series beginner. The world, itself, is something fascinating–it reminds me a bit of [b:The City of Ember|307791|The City of Ember (Book of Ember, #1)|Jeanne DuPrau|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1388179353s/307791.jpg|2285229], only flipped upside down, I suppose. But it has its own strangeness. I was particularly fascinated by the bits of Daphne’s manifesto–clearly, a great deal of background writing went into creating Daphne’s character and psyche, as so much of our view of Internment rests upon the bits and pieces of her that are revealed to us through her writing. I think it reveals a new level of maturity in DeStephano’s writing, and I was entirely impressed.

I initially gave Perfect Ruin 4 stars, but the more I think about it, the more I love it. I’d go back and read it again right now. 4.5 stars, at least, and clean as a whistle.

Drawn

Drawn - Cecilia Gray Review originally posted on fefferbooks.com.

Drawn is kind of an interesting, if slightly unfocused, novel. The story, itself, is actually pretty good. The synopsis sounds fascinating, right? And it is, actually–the writing is engaging right from the beginning, and though, a couple of times, it’s a little quick to jump scene, overall it’s a really solid book with a fun plot.

HOWEVER, I was completely and entirely thrown off by the inclusion of the…I hesitate to say graphic novel here–you’d understand if you saw them…comic strips? inserted between each section. It’s kind of a gamble of a convention; if done well, using graphic novel sections can be really cool and edgy, as seen in [b:Chasing Shadows|15756269|Chasing Shadows|Swati Avasthi|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1373381697s/15756269.jpg|21453739] by Swati Avasthi (which I quit reading because of swearing, but was exceptionally awesome up to that point). Here, it’s just sort of weird and off-putting. Presumably, the graphic sections are supposed to have been drawn by Sasha, an untrained but supposedly gifted artist. The strips, though, are unimpressive, and sometimes confusing, and rather than lending anything positive to the story, they tend to detract from it--particularly the very first one, which comes out of left field. Frankly, the book would stand well on its own without them.

Apart from that issue, I did enjoy the story. Sasha’s friends Vivi and Sebastien are particularly vivid and fun, and though I was left wanting more, I enjoyed the relationship between Sasha and Chelsea. Shasha’s “power” manifests itself in curious ways, and makes for some different and interesting plot development. It’s not bad, in the end, and hey, you might find you’re not as bothered as I am by the illustrations.

A couple of very mild swear words. Otherwise clean. 3.5 stars.

Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy. Drawn was released last month and is on shelves now!

Scent of Butterflies

Scent of Butterflies - Dora Levy Mossanen I really enjoyed the first bit, but this one was just too heavy on the language right out of the gate, which was a bummer; I was really looking forward to reading it, and Soraya's voice was fresh and interesting.

Thanks to Sourcebooks for the chance to read the ARC.

Annie and Fia

Annie and Fia - Kiersten White A fun little fleshing-out of the origin story of Annie and Fia from Mind Games. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed these characters, including the secondaries. I really need to get my hands on some more Kiersten White. Looking forward to more in this series!

Oh, and it doesn't hurt that it's free. :)

UnSouled

UnSouled (Unwind, #3) - Neal Shusterman Review first appeared on fefferbooks.com.

In UnSouled, the action picks back up again. Here, all of our characters’ lives converge, and we gain Grace, my new favorite, and Starkey, a champion of storked (abandoned) kids like himself. The teens also have several encounters with Nelson, the vengeful Juvey Cop who originally tried to arrest Connor, and got tranquilized instead. The whole novel builds in romantic tension, political intrigue, and action throughout, and it’s just plain crazy fun. We also (finally!) get more background on how unwinding came to be, and the governmental fallout since the laws have changed over the past couple of years. Shusterman takes many of his ideas and details straight from news articles from the last few years, which is just…well, it’s downright freaky. He gives us quotes and citations at each section break, and it was enough for me to exclaim out loud and read things to my husband almost every time I got to one of those pages. It’s clearly a fictional book–don’t get me wrong–but reading it is just enough to make you uncomfortable about how things could go if you never got involved, never voted, and if politicians were bad enough and left unchecked long enough. It’s just…creepy. But in a good, important way, if that makes any sense?

I loved this series, and I’m thrilled there’s yet another book coming. Creepy and awesome. 4.5 stars.

UnWholly (Unwind)

UnWholly - Neal Shusterman Review first appeared on fefferbooks.com.

UnWholly, like most middle series novels, felt a good deal slower in pace than [b:Unwind|764347|Unwind (Unwind, #1)|Neal Shusterman|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1297677706s/764347.jpg|750423], because there was so much more exposition happening. Connor, Risa, and Lev’s stories are developing, but a lot of things are setting up for the next book. The introduction of Cam, though, made things interesting and fresh. The longer we know him, the more we like him, and yet, the more disturbing the very idea of him becomes. Shusterman continues to challenge readers with moral and philosophical questions about life, death, and the soul. He also pushes them to think through the kinds of things they’re hearing from the media; perceptive readers will see the fallacies in the arguments as they’re presented, and yet, it’s hard not to see some of the logic in them, as well. My hope, as an adult reader, is that younger readers will be able to pick up on the way truths can be twisted to meet specific ends, and apply that as a filter throughout the rest of their lives. I loved how Shusterman was able to slip that teaching moment in, here (and in the next book, as well).

The writing, while a touch slower here, was consistently excellent. Again, a couple of low-grade swear words. 4 stars.

Unwind (Unwind Trilogy, #1)

Unwind (Unwind Trilogy, #1) - Neal Shusterman Review first appeared on fefferbooks.com.

Unwind basically blew my mind. That sounds trite, but allow me to qualify. The book is a sci-fi, dystopian survival adventure, like so many others. What sets it apart is the intelligence and ethical boundary-pushing wrapped up in the plot. Unwind centers on the practice of physically “unwinding” wild or criminal teenagers, at the behest of the state or their parents. I’ll allow you to read and find out what, exactly, unwinding means, but Shusterman is skilled at portraying the politics involved in both sides of the equation, and the confusion of many of the characters involved as they struggle with questions of ethics and try to figure out what’s right for themselves. Truthfully, the book is disturbing, because portions of it are just close enough to plausible. Though unwinding, itself, is unlikely to happen, the circumstances that led Connor and Risa’s version of our government to that point are entirely likely, and, in some cases, we are already on that path. It’s just…well, it’s downright freaky.

As for the writing itself, it’s fantastic. Connor and Risa are fabulous characters (a truly independent girl! Love her!) and Lev is such an unlikely, interesting supporting character. The action just keeps coming, and the ending is a truly unexpected, ethereal wonder. If you feel you’ve only got time for one book in this series, make Unwind that book–I feel like it’s the best of the three, and I’ll absolutely read it again.

I picked up two PG-13 swear words. Otherwise clean. 5 stars.

From the Kitchen of Half Truth

From the Kitchen of Half Truth - Maria Goodin More later, but this is a charming little book. A little quick to jump scene in a few places, but overall, perfectly lovely. Would be a great book club pick.

Champion: A Legend Novel

Champion: A Legend Novel - Marie Lu Review cross-posted from fefferbooks.com.

PEOPLE. I’ve been thinking about what to write for this review of Champion for hours, now, and I am seriously sitting at my laptop, eyes bugged out huge, because, OMGOSH. Here’s all I can think of to write:



STUFF HAPPENS!!



Holy crap.

This book is absolutely my most favorite of all the series-enders I’ve read in the past year. Looking back at my list on Goodreads, that incorporates [b:Boundless|13049981|Boundless (Unearthly, #3)|Cynthia Hand|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1342208984s/13049981.jpg|18214662] (Unearthly), [b:Requiem|9593913|Requiem (Delirium, #3)|Lauren Oliver|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1340992438s/9593913.jpg|14480925] (Delirium), [b:Sever|12383869|Sever (The Chemical Garden, #3)|Lauren DeStefano|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1343168408s/12383869.jpg|17364649] (The Chemical Garden Trilogy), [b:If I Should Die|12700337|If I Should Die (Revenants, #3)|Amy Plum|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1357766133s/12700337.jpg|17831603] (Revenants), [b:Infinityglass|14289306|Infinityglass (Hourglass, #3)|Myra McEntire|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1360776495s/14289306.jpg|19929564]: An Hourglass Novel, and [b:Allegiant|18710190|Allegiant (Divergent, #3)|Veronica Roth|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1383330038s/18710190.jpg|15524549] (Divergent). That’s…a lot. And while there were some of those that I liked (Boundless, in particular), some left me feeling really raw. Champion basically terrified me. And, other than saying trust me, and just read it, I will leave it there and not spoil anything.

Lu continues to be an exceptionally skilled writer. She is concise, strong, and as demanding of her readers as she is of her characters. June and Day don’t have it easy–war isn’t easy–and Lu doesn’t make their lives cutesy and neat. But one of the things I love most about Lu’s writing is how true she is to human tendencies and emotions. With all her logic and analytical capabilities, June can come across as cold and uncaring, but I love Lu’s ability to express June’s extraordinary loyalty, and the vulnerabilities she hides underneath her many outer shells of strengths. She’s such a perfect, stalwart foil to Day’s warm, rallying, emotional leader, and Lu’s ability to make us both cheer for them and feel sympathy for Anden are an impressive show of skill, indeed.

I was amazed by the imagination that went into the world-building in this whole series, but especially when we were introduced to Antarctica. I’ll let you read about it rather than describing it here, so you can experience the fun for yourselves, but I was completely overcome by a sense of wonder. All three of the series’ major settings, really, are impressive in their scope–Lu is a marvel.

In all, Champion is …well, it’s exactly what I hope for in a novel. Thrills, excitement, a little romance, a great story, and fantastic writing. There’s a touch of mild language, and “the deed” does finally happen. There are details, but they are vague-ish? Not inappropriate, in themselves (e.g., my pre-teens would have no idea what’s happening, but your 16-yo would be able to figure it out).

Practically perfect in every way. 5 stars.

Daughter of the God-King

Daughter of the God-King - Anne Cleeland Review first appeared on fefferbooks.com.

I love a good period mystery/romance, but usually when I read them, I prepare myself for a touch of stuffiness from the narrator. I was so pleasantly surprised by the bubbly, energetic voice that greeted me from the pages of Anne Cleeland's Daughter of the God-King. Hathor (who goes by Hattie; who can blame her?) is so headstrong, so bright, so...dare I say spunky? that she charms her way quickly right into the hearts of readers.

Cleeland's characters, and there are many, are mainly all similarly charming--Bing, Hattie's companion, is faithful, cheerful, and delightfully insightful. Robbie, the childhood friend and erstwhile love interest, throws a dash of loyalty and stability into the mix. Eugenie is the consummate French flirt, and Mssr. Berry is irresistibly, protectively, seductively fabulous.

The setting flits from Paris to Thebes, Cairo to the Valley of the Kings, and all kinds of adventure ensues. The group, as a whole, is on the hunt for an Egyptian artifact, and Hattie has been superstitiously confused for the daughter in the title: the pharaoh Seti's daughter. But there is more mystery to unfold, fraught with spies and intrigue, mummies and artifacts and murder and theft--and some romance, too. The romance, itself, was a little heavy on the details for me, but might be just fine for others. Just fair warning.

Cleeland's writing is clear, frolicking, and engaging. The only issue I noted was once or twice when the narration shifted ever-so-slightly out of voice: the book is written in third-person limited, meaning we know what Hattie thinks and feels, but no one else. In a couple of places, we're told exactly what someone else thinks, or even, that we're not sure *what* Hattie thinks. That would be fine, if Hattie herself doesn't know, but instead, it seems as if the narrator is unsure. That was a tad distracting. Regardless, it only happened a couple of times.

Otherwise, the book was wholly delightful, and if it were a little lighter on the bedroom details, I'd happily read the next in the series. 4.5 stars.

Note: ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Daughter of the God-King is on shelves now!

Dream Girl

Dream Girl - S.J. Lomas I couldn't even get past the first couple of pages. There was just way too much plot development thrown at us up front, without any character development at all. Without any chance to get to know or care about the main character, giving us a love interest on page 2 with "melancholy practically pour[ing] off him," yadda yadda, is a bit much to handle. We don't even know who Christine is yet! I just couldn't get into it.

Advance copy received via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Allegiant (Divergent, #3)

Allegiant (Divergent, #3) - Veronica Roth My thoughts are totally all over the place with this one, and I don't want to spoil it. Short version: I still love Roth's writing, and: WHOA. There was a lot of sitting and staring, trying to process this one.

More in the morning on fefferbooks.com!

Roomies

Roomies - Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando Review first appeared on fefferbooks.com.

I loved Roomies. Remember when you were a high-school grad, getting everything ready to go off to college, and you got that letter? The one that told you who your roommate would be? There was so much anticipation wrapped up in that letter, for me. What would she be like? Would she be fun? Would she be weird? Would we be a horrible fit, or be great friends? Really, deep down, it all came down to the burning question: would she like me? (She was awesome, by the way, and I have many silly memories of that year. I couldn’t have asked for a better roomie than Marianne. Aww.)

Reading Roomies brought back all of those memories, and Zarr and Altebrando captured that nervous energy beautifully. Even more wonderfully for us, they fleshed out the story by allowing the friendship between the two roomies-to-be, EB and Lauren, to develop online. It’s a clever premise that lets us examine the convention of online friendship. As the book progresses, we swap narrators and get nice, meaty insights into the emotional plights that face our heroines. We agonize with them over the battles they’re waging in their personal lives, and get wrapped up in their relationships. Then we read the emails they send one another, and sometimes cringe, knowing exactly how poorly something is going to come across, or how someone might misconstrue a brisk (but friendly!) line sent off in a rush. It’s just the nature of online communication that it’s so easily misread, and the way Zarr and Altebrando work those subtleties in, here, is brilliant.

That said, it’s not a heavy novel. It plays out naturally and is a fulfilling, enjoyable read. I thought Roomies had a great deal to say about the nature of friendship, understanding, and the bonds we can form when we’re willing to give a little of ourselves.

Mild swearing, references to sex, but no nitty-gritty. 4.5 stars.


Advanced copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The 58-page preview version of Roomies releases today (Kindle-only; full version in Kindle and hardcover will be out next month)!

The Transfer: A Divergent Story

Four: The Transfer: A Divergent Story - Veronica Roth I thought that Free Four was a little disappointing, but I love this world of Roth's so much that I bought Transfer anyway. I *loved* it. It gives great background on Four's choices and more info on his "four," and it's a fun chunk of the story to have. Totally worth the $1.99.

Infinityglass: An Hourglass Novel

Infinityglass  - Myra McEntire Review from : fefferbooks.com.

Usually, I do not condone dragging a series out longer than three books (if that’s even necessary; honestly, what ever happened to writing a standalone book? Sometimes that’s okay!), but so help me, if Infinityglass is really the end of the Hourglass series, I will be a very sad reader indeed.

Myra McEntire is extraordinarily clever, really, having set the books up this way. She drew us in to her world, fabulously, with Emerson and Michael’s story/relationship/craziness in Hourglass. Then, in a move I usually dislike, she swapped points of view and gave us Kaleb’s story in book two, Timepiece. I found myself bummed for about three seconds, and then entirely immersed in and sympathetic to Kaleb’s whole…thing. (Just read it. You’ll see.) At the same time, McEntire fleshes out the whole “family” even more, giving us nice chunks of time with the characters we already know and love, and letting us really enjoy the cameraderie these characters have: they’re X-men teen. But hotter (ahem). And with more …playfulness? Love? Mutual trust? They’re the kind of people you actually want to know and hang out with.

In Infinityglass, the focus switches to Dune, who’s the character I felt perhaps I knew the least about. I. love. Dune. I love Dune even more than Michael, which I wouldn’t have thought possible. In Dune, McEntire’s written a character so imbued with kindness and maturity and thoughtfulness and protectiveness, it’d be hard to believe such a guy exists if I weren’t married to one. :) Dune’s fantastic. And for every bit as lovely as he is, Hallie is just plain fun. The whole book is a blast to read, and the plot drives the entire series well, while giving us some new meat to chew on.

I enjoyed this book so much, I want to go back and read it again. And then maybe the whole series. Love.

Some references to older teens having sex and maybe some mild language? I need to go back and check. I read it a week ago, now, and I can’t remember. Nothing major, for sure. 5 stars.

Deep Winter: a Novel

Deep Winter: a Novel - Samuel W. Gailey Starts off with a bang, and is heavy with atmosphere. The characterizations are fabulous, right up to the point that Sokowski's introduced, and there's just so much language that I'm not enjoying it anymore. (Obviously, we're supposed to despise him, so it's part of the package, but I'm picky.) Gailey is clearly gifted, and if I could selectively skip these parts, I'd be more than thrilled to read this!